CBS's Smith: Is GOP Making 'Miscalculation' At Their Own 'Peril' By Supporting Tea Party?

Harry Smith and Dan Bartlett, CBS Talking to Republican strategist Dan Bartlett on Wednesday's CBS Early Show, co-host Harry Smith wondered if the electoral success of the tea party could harm the GOP: "Are all of these tea party victories good for the Republican Party?...I wonder if you're making a miscalculation at your own peril at, you know, this perceived enthusiasm gap, these people are literally changing the face of a party."

Bartlett admitted difficultly in electing Christine O'Donnell, the winner of Tuesday's Republican Senate primary in Delaware, but staunchly defended the overall impact of the movement: "...the intensity gap that we're seeing between the two parties this election cycle is mainly being fed by the tea party movement on the Republican side....The prospect of taking over the House of Representatives would not happen without this vibrant activity within the tea party."
        
Smith turned to his other guest, Democratic strategist Tanya Acker, and continued to stress Republican difficulties: "...as Democrats are watching this all unfold, with the rancor and derision within the Republican Party, with the tea party really catching fire out there, how – how do you view it?" Acker ranted: "...I think that more Democrats are going to be motivated to go to the polls when you hear what some of these tea party candidates are saying. I don't think most of the country wants to repeal the Civil Rights Act."

Only at the very end of the segment did Smith even acknowledge serious problems for Democrats in November: "And Tanya, very quickly, you have to confess, there really is a kind of a 'throw the bums out' mentality that has gotten some real traction." Acker, who seemed to offer nothing but over-the-top sound bites, argued: "I think that what Democrats have to do is to demonstrate that they are interested in governing, not simply coming up with good sound bites for talk radio shows."

In a report prior to Smith's discussion with Bartlett and Acker, correspondent Nancy Cordes proclaimed of O'Donnell's primary win: "This is the most stunning victory yet for the tea party and crushing blow to the Republican Party leaders who thought that Vice President Biden's former Senate seat would be an easy pick-up for them in the fall. Not anymore."

Cordes wrapped up her piece by declaring: "...if Republicans don't win Delaware, their chances of winning back the Senate are almost nonexistent. Democrats are seizing on this upset to argue that the Republican Party has been taken over by the right wing, that moderates need not apply, that's an argument they're going to be taking into the fall."

Here is a full transcript of the September 15 segment:
7:00AM ET TEASE:

HARRY SMITH: Tea party triumph. An upstart takes on the Republican establishment and walks away with a big upset on primary day. How will all this tea affect the GOP?

7:01AM ET SEGMENT:

SMITH: We begin, though, this morning with politics as the Tea Party Express bowls over some more well-known Republican candidates in Tuesday's primary election. The biggest surprise, the Senate primary in Delaware. CBS News congressional correspondent Nancy Cordes is in Washington with the latest. Nancy, good morning.

NANCY CORDES: Good morning, Harry. This is the most stunning victory yet for the tea party and crushing blow to the Republican Party leaders who thought that Vice President Biden's former Senate seat would be an easy pick-up for them in the fall. Not anymore.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Tea Party Triumph; Big Wins For Upstarts On Primary Day]

CHRISTINE O'DONNELL: Ladies and gentlemen, the people of Delaware have spoken. No more politics as usual!

CORDES: It is perhaps the biggest upset of the political season so far, newcomer Christine O'Donnell defeating veteran Congressman Mike Castle.

O'DONNELL: And I also want to thank the Tea Party Express.

CORDES: The chair of her own state party called O'Donnell, 'a liar who could not be elected dog catcher,' and yet, the tea party conservative easily defeated the well-known Mike Castle, 53 to 47%. O'Donnell, a former marketing consultant with a checkered financial record, was a dark horse until two weeks ago, when the Tea Party Express barreled into town bearing $250,000. An endorsement from Sarah Palin followed. The Republican Party scrambled, fearing the tea party would upset yet another GOP establishment Senate candidate as it already had in Utah, Alaska, Kentucky and Nevada. A last-minutes robocall recorded by her former campaign manager-

ROBOCALL: O'Donnell just wanted to make a buck.

CORDES: -wasn't enough to turn the tide.

MIKE CASTLE: The last several weeks have been spirited, shall we say.

CORDES: In New Hampshire's Senate primary, former attorney general Kelly Ayotte was slightly ahead of the tea party-backed Ovid LaMontagne in a race too close to call. A tea party newcomer did win in New York, defeating former Hillary Clinton opponent and well-known GOP candidate Rick Lazio, in New York's primary for governor.

CARL PALADINO: I want everybody in the Republican Party who opposed me to know this. You're welcome to join the people's crusade.

CORDES: But it's the defeat in Delaware that really stings for the GOP because the moderate Castle, who has won in the blue state of Delaware ten times, was considered a shoo-in to defeat the Democrat Chris Coons come fall. O'Donnell is a decided underdog.

O'DONNELL: Hold onto your hats, folks, because we're in for a fight.

CORDES: And if Republicans don't win Delaware, their chances of winning back the Senate are almost non existent. Democrats are seizing on this upset to argue that the Republican Party has been taken over by the right wing, that moderates need not apply, that's an argument they're going to be taking into the fall, Harry.

SMITH: Nancy Cordes in Washington, thank you. Joining us now to talk about the primaries and what happens in November are Democratic strategist Tanya Acker in Los Angeles and Republican strategist Dan Bartlett in Austin, Texas. Good morning to you both.

DAN BARTLETT: Morning, Harry.

TANYA ACKER: Good morning.

SMITH: Dan, let's talk about this, you got Delaware, you got Kentucky, you got Alaska, you got Utah, one after another, after another. Are all of these tea party victories good for the Republican Party?

DAN BARTLETT: Well, when you have a situation like with Mike Castle getting beat in Delaware, it obviously gives you pause because it's going to be very difficult, if not impossible, for Republicans now to gain that seat in the United States Senate. Having said that, though, Harry, the intensity gap that we're seeing between the two parties this election cycle is mainly being fed by the tea party movement on the Republican side. So, net/net, it's still a gain. The prospect of taking over the House of Representatives would not happen without this vibrant activity within the tea party. So while you're going to have these types of anomalies like we saw last night with Mike Castle going down, net-net, I still think this is going to be a positive thing with a lot of long-term consequences for government.

SMITH: Yeah, because even Karl Rove came out and said last night this is – that's not going to help us get the seat in the long run. Let's talk about this from a Democratic perspective, Tanya, as Democrats are watching this all unfold, with the rancor and derision within the Republican Party, with the tea party really catching fire out there, how – how do you view it?

TANYA ACKER: Well, I think it really presents Democrats an opportunity. I mean, I think that they do have to be very careful. It's one thing simply to call a lot of these candidates extremists, which I happen to think they are, but I think that the Democratic message has to be bigger than that. The choice the country's going to be presented with is that between one party that seems to be auditioning for a talk radio show host. You know you've got folks like Sharron Angle saying things like taking up arms against the government and whereas the Democrats want to talk about extending unemployment benefits and regulating Wall Street. So I think that the voters are going to have a very clear choice and I do think that, you know, Dan is right, there is something of an enthusiasm gap but I think that more Democrats are going to be motivated to go to the polls when you hear what some of these tea party candidates are saying.

SMITH: Is it-

ACKER: I don't think most of the country wants to repeal the Civil Rights Act.

SMITH: Dan, this is interesting, you listen to Tanya, because I wonder if you're making a miscalculation at your own peril at, you know, this perceived enthusiasm gap, these people are literally changing the face of a party. Dan?

BARTLETT: Well, look, I mean, it is the case in the United States Senate, with some of these candidate races, the candidate themselves is going to make a difference in whether there is a victory or a loss. But let's not lose historical sight here, and that is the first midterm election of a new president is a referendum on that White House and on that leadership. And what we're seeing right now is a rejection of how the governor – the governance by Democrats over the last 18 months has taken place, both in the White House and the United States Congress. And that's why Republicans, while they're going to have issues like they're seeing in Delaware and there's going to be other candidates that are not going to represent the entire Republican Party, the bottom line is that right now, things are shaping up for Democrats to be a very long night in November.

SMITH: Alright. And Tanya, very quickly, you have to confess, there really is a kind of a 'throw the bums out' mentality that has gotten some real traction.

ACKER: Well, I think that that, that movement, that mentality, seems to be relatively constant in Washington, but I think that what Democrats have to do is to demonstrate that they are interested in governing, not simply coming up with good sound bites for talk radio shows.

SMITH: Well, we shall see. This is still unfolding, even as we speak. Tanya Acker and Dan Bartlett, we do appreciate your time this morning. Thank you.

BARTLETT: Thanks, Harry.

ACKER: Thanks.
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC